NEW DELHI, October 4, 2011.
Leaders of various organisations on Monday condemned the “arbitrary” and “illegitimate” raid on Right to Food Campaign steering committee convener and PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava, who has challenged in the Supreme Court the Union government’s poverty line on Right to Food.
Activists Jean Dreze, Binayak Sen, Aruna Roy, Medha Patkar, Nikhil Dey and Annie Raja charged that the raid was an act of harassment and witch-hunting of human rights workers. The ulterior motive was sending a message to all activists not to take up issues against the state.
Those associated with the Right to Food Campaign and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties said it was harassment under cover of fighting Naxalism. They said the Rajasthan police raided Ms. Srivastava’s house claiming to be looking for a “dreaded” Naxalite, and in her absence, they harassed her 82-year-old father and two domestic helpers.
The statement said the raid was conducted at the behest of the Chhattisgarh police on a warrant that carried only Ms. Srivastava’s address and the word “abhiyukt [accused].”
The activists said Ms. Srivastava had been a tireless defender of human rights for many years and was earlier harassed for opposing the “criminal activities” of the Chhattisgarh government such as “detentions, encounter killings, and foisting false cases under the garb of fighting Naxalism.”
Demanding an unconditional apology from the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments, the activists warned that such “undemocratic and arbitrary” actions would not silence human rights defenders and instead amplify their voices against injustice and “state repression.”
In a separate statement, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) charged that the action was aimed at ‘terrorising and harassing’ her and ‘sending a message’ that the Chhattisgarh government would not tolerate her work as PUCL activist in challenging the Salwa Judum, Operation Green Hunt and taking up the cases of political prisoners like Dr. Binayak Sen, Kopa Kunjam (both are out on bail), Kartam Joga and others.